Latte foam? How cancer treatment could come from a surprising source

The secret is in the gas.
Kavita Verma
A latte sitting on a table
Can your latte help fight cancer?

Angela Kotsell/iStock 

Who knew sipping on your favorite cup of caffe latte could aid in treating one of the most feared diseases – cancer? Yeah, you read that right.

A research team at the University of Iowa has developed a biocompatible gas-entrapping material that can help improve the efficacy of radiation and chemotherapy in cancer treatment. The inspiration behind the breakthrough research is the foam on top of lattes, pop rock sweets, and gummy bears. 

The oncology breakthrough dramatically shifts the cancer treatment paradigm for the upcoming years.

The biocompatible materials, GeMs, are prepared using foaming, thickening agents, and gas. The gas-entrapping foam can be used as an effective agent for transferring therapeutic gases to tumors. 

GeMs have been reverse-engineered to accept oxygen and other gases as their components. A whipping siphon with safe and edible components is utilized to manufacture the GeMs foam in the lab – the whipping siphon is the same device baristas use to make milk foam. 

Increased response to immunotherapy

James Byrne, MD, Ph.D., and Jianling Bi, Ph.D., at the University of Iowa, penned a research study with the journal Advanced Science, which found that GeMs directly deliver higher oxygen levels into tumors.

After receiving oxygen, tumors and cancer cells become more vulnerable to treatments, including immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and radiation. Multiple tests were conducted on mouse models with prostate cancer and a type of sarcoma to check the product's efficacy. 

Byrne and other researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Medical School conducted this research study as a multi-institutional effort.  

What could be the possible challenge?

Byrne, the assistant professor of radiation oncology and a Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center member at the Univesity of Iowa, says, "The real challenge is how to deliver an effective dose of oxygen in a safe, controlled fashion.” 

The researchers vary the components' quantity and control the release of oxygen from the materials. Byrne states that the translatability of these materials for cancer treatment is extremely high.

A study by a research scientist in Byrne’s lab stated that one aspect that excited him was the combination of cancer biology principles and material science, which created something very impactful for cancer treatment.

The world now awaits for amazing culinary art to help treat terminal diseases efficiently and effectively with therapeutic gases. 

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